Monday, February 25, 2002

Stepping Back. Today was so stunningly beautiful here in Tustin, California that I put the evolving essay on hold and enjoyed the sunshine and life itself. I do want to take a few minutes, though, to provide background material that will support my thesis that we're in the midst of a global war. In this war the battles are being fought on economic rather than military fronts. In military engagements one of the primary tactical objectives is to grab and hold real estate that positions you to control lines of communication. These lines include logistics, ability to freely maneuver, coordination and communications with supporting forces. The primary strategic objectives are always political, which are motivated by the self-interests of each side.

Scope. My focus is on the software industry, not global economics in general. However, an understanding of global economics is required. I'm tempted to include Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations as background material. I'll spare you that for a few reasons: the book was written 226 years ago and, while it remains influential, it's archaic. It's a classic that many cite, but few have completely read. I do recomend two classics in their own right by Michael Porter: Competitive Strategy and Competitive Advantage. If you opt for one or the other, I recommend the older, but seminal, Competitive Strategy because it is germane to my thesis and will also give you insights into the business domain.

Less known, but [in my opinion] of equal importance to Porter's work is Adrian J. Slywotzky's Value Migration. If you want compelling reasons why you should read this book, read Linda Zarate's 15 August 2001 review on Amazon. Her review will also reveal this essay's genesis.

On Quality. If you've read more than a few entries here or in Postcards from the Revolution you'll quickly realize that both Linda and I rank quality as one of the most important aspects in the IT profession. I'm not going to recommend general quality recources, however, because there are a plethora of quality-related books and papers that are specific to IT. One book that I recently reviewed on Amazon that I recommend is Software Excellence: A Total Quality Management Guide. I've had this book since 1997, and wrote an Amazon review on 20 February 2002. One chapter that I particularly liked was Quality Function Deployment for Software. I've been a proponent of this technique for years. If you want an overview of QFD the PDF document titled, Using QFD For Assessing And Optimizing Software Architectures shows how this powerful technique can be effectively used in software architecture. If that paper piques your interest you might want to invest in a copy of Quality Function Deployment by Lou Cohen. I personally think this is the best book on the subject from among the half-dozen or so I own. Linda is partial to Step-by-Step QFD by John Terninko. See her 28 March 2001 Amazon review for details.

One final recommendation in this topic is Elements of Software Process Assessment and Improvement, a compilation of essays edited by Khaled El Emam. There are two reasons why I think this book is important:

  1. It covers all of the major quality models, including CMM, SPICE, Bootstrap and ISO 9000.
  2. It portrays international initiatives in software process improvement, particularly with respect to SPICE and Bootstrap, which are popular in Australia and Europe, respectively.
See my 20 September 2001 review for details.

Estimation and Measurement. You've probably come across the term 6-Sigma if you've been keeping up with quality literature in software engineering or even industrial manufacturing. To get you up-to-speed if you're new to the concepts or just haven't delved deeply into it, I have a Zip archive of 6-Sigma PowerPoint presentations that cover many facets of the subject.

Two articles that I recommend are Caspers Jones' Software Measurement Programs and Industry Leadership that also ties into my thesis with respect to the relationship between quality and competitive advantage, and Dr. Barry Boehm's article titled, Future Trends, Implications in Cost Estimation Models. These two articles are augmented by my most recent entry in Postcards from the Revolution, which addresses advanced project management techniques.

End Note: Entries here will be terse for the next few days while I clear items from my "to do" list. Stay tuned because I will be adding short pieces to the evolving essay that has consumed my attention for the past few days. Also be aware that what I write here is only half of the story - the other half is in Postcards from the Revolution.

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